Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
In the fifteenth century, the city of Paris is alive with festivals. As part of one of the celebrations, a playwright, named Pierre Gringoire, has written a mystery play, which he believes is a masterpiece. As the play is performed, there are continuous interruptions, and the audience does not seem to understand or enjoy the play. Gringoire is devastated that his drama is not popular and is enraged when the audience decides to desert the play and commence the festival to elect the Pope of Fools. In this contest, people stick their faces through a curtain and make fiendishly silly faces. The ugliest face is declared the winner and called the Pope of Fools.
A man named Quasimodo lives in the tower of the cathedral of Notre Dame and serves as the bell-ringer. He is physically atrocious, having a deformed body, a hunched back, a disfigured face, and a single eye. Because of his freakish appearance and his deafness, Quasimodo has been vilified by the citizens of Paris. As a result, he is a loner who seldom ventures out of his tower. His only friend in the world is Claude Frollo, the priest at Notre-Dame who adopted Quasimodo as an infant and brought him up in the confines of the cathedral. Quasimodo somehow gets caught up in the Festival of Fools and is thought to be a contestant. Because of his horribly disfigured face, he easily wins the contest and is crowned the Pope of Fools. As is tradition, he is lifted up through the streets of the city, celebrated instead of vilified; but his celebration does not last for long.
The dejected Gringoire leaves the scene of his play and walks miserably through the streets of Paris, feeling like a failure. When he comes upon La Esmeralda, a gypsy street entertainer who does tricks with her goat Djali, Gringoire stops to watch her performance
an old woman, locked away in Rolande’s Tower for the insane, as she shouts curses on the gypsy. The old woman, named Pacquette, is known as Sister Gudule. Many years ago she gave birth to a beautiful girl, who was kidnapped by Egyptian gypsies and replaced with a horribly deformed baby. When Pacquette went insane over the loss of her baby girl, the deformed replacement was given up for adoption and taken in by Claude Frollo. Pacquette was locked away in Rolande’s Tower, where she nurtured her hatred for all gypsies.
As the procession of the Pope of Fools comes near, Claude Frollo sees his bell-ringer taking part in the grotesque celebration and makes him quit. When they leave the area, they come upon La Esmeralda. Frollo, who is in love with La Esmeralda, tries to kidnap her, but when his actions are seen, he slips away. Quasimodo is left to take the blame. Gringoire rushes in to protect La Esmeralda. The hunchback strikes him, knocking him to the ground. Within moments, a soldier, named Phoebus, comes to La Esmeralda’s rescue and takes Quasimodo into custody. Gringoire continues on his way, wishing he had a place to sleep and food to eat. He comes to a place known as the Court of Miracles, where gypsies and vagabonds live by their own laws. When he dares to enter the Court of Miracles, Gringoire is told he will be executed for trespassing unless someone in the band agrees to marry him. La Esmeralda, proving her kindness, steps up and volunteers to become his wife. By marrying Gringoire, the gypsy girl saves his life.
Quasimodo is sentenced to a public beating for taking part in the attempted kidnapping of La Esmeralda. A large crowd gathers to watch the hunchback receive his punishment. Quasimodo spies his master, Claude Frollo, in the crowd, and thinks he will be saved; but the priest does nothing, not even acknowledging that he knows the hunchback. Quasimodo is devastated, for he has always believed in Frollo. After the flogging, Quasimodo is exhausted and parched. When he begs for water, La Esmeralda is the only person in the crowd to take pity on him. As she gives him water, her kindness brings tears to the hunchback’s eyes, and he falls in love with her.